As Canadians like Justin Bieber, Drake, Alessia Cara, Shawn Mendes and The Weeknd tighten their grip on the U.S. pop charts, it’s easy to understand how a few fringe favorites might slip through the cracks without an OVO, XO or SB Projects co-sign.
Standing tall among that pack is Ralph, a 26-year-old Toronto native who released her self-titled EP earlier this year on the same Canadian label that first launched Carly Rae Jepsen in the pre-“Call Me Maybe” era. Working with pop producer Mike Wise, Ralph has cultivated a synth-y sound that positions her firmly in the same hyper-melodic realm as “Tango in the Night”-era Fleetwood Mac devotees like Haim, Shura and Bleachers, but with a street-wise sass that presents a different pop perspective from the constantly-crushing material found on latter-day Jepsen records.
The current single “Cold to the Touch” is a fitting introduction to the sound of Ralph, who only has a handful of Canadian TV and film synchs to her name to date. The track opens with percolating synths that bubble up like popcorn, reminiscent of the sonic branding employed by tech brands like Intel or HP. Then Ralph swoops in on the verse with a hookup-buddy caveat — “Tonight I need it / But I’m gonna let you down / Don’t wanna hurt you / Just like I did before” — that could be an ideal fit for any number of femme-positive TV dramas or comedies.
And then there’s that chorus, which shimmers with a burst of tambourine, Ralph-on-Ralph harmonies and rubbery bass, the same formula that made Haim’s “Forever” so synch-worthy in a series of style commercials for Target.
Ralph’s self-titled EP is filled with mega-melodies that lodge in the brain like chewing gum (another standout, “Tease,” is begging for an ‘80s workout montage), but “Cold to the Touch” is a keeper that deserves to help her music travel from “The 6” to the 60-second spot.
Andrew Hampp is a vice president at New York-based music sponsorship and experiential agency MAC Presents.